Averaging Sucks. Where’s the Software?

Which of these pieces of feedback is better?

Fig 1. You're good at tree diagrams and bad at area diagrams. Let's work on area diagrams.

Fig. 2: You suck. Try studying harder.

And yet, this is what my grading software looks like to students:

Fig. 3: As a student, you are a 93%. I assume you can tell why.

In an era of easy software development, why do we put up with this?  Do you know of anything better?

I’m quitting my job to make something better.  I’m terrified.

11 thoughts on “Averaging Sucks. Where’s the Software?”

  1. My solution is to create a “task” for each standard, so that each standard is visible in the gradebook.

    I’d be happy to see something better; I’d be really happy to see something better integrated in Moodle, as I’m inclined to use that anyway.

    1. I have started the same thing: to the students it is listed “Skill 1: Add/Subtract integers – 5/5″ “Skill 2: Multiply/divide integers 3/5″ etc. They also have a place where they keep track of their progress on each skill.

      1. On a piece of paper? On an excel spreadsheet? In a piece of grading software?

        One of the biggest hurdles for me with standard-based assessment has been the work involved in updating the students with my records. My grading software can email reports, but it just does averages and categories, etc – no sorting by standard or summarizing into standards. Can your students see the various assessments that go into your single grade for Skill 1?

        Thanks for your comment and the info!

  2. I enter each of my standards as a separate assignment. Each time a quiz comes around, I replace student scores with the new, higher score, if their score improved. If their score did not improve, or went down, I leave the old score in place. This has the unfortunate effect of allowing for no historical data :( Also, if their understanding has worsened, their grade doesn’t reflect that.

    I’m including links to a screenshot of my gradebook, and a student report so you can see what they see :)

    http://tiny.cc/sbggradebook
    http://tiny.cc/gradereport

  3. Thanks for posting those screenshots. I had something similar going in excel, but had the same problem of no historical data.

    I want something more descriptive, that says, “Here’s what I think you know” in a clearer way. It’s a tough problem!

    I’m going to respond to your second comment here in this thread to keep software questions grouped:

    I’ve been brainstorming about one of the basic requirements you mentioned. How much do you think students look at scores for individual assignments? In trying to think of ways to simplify reports for students, I was imagining that “I judge you at 3/5 for factoring quadratics. Here’s what you can do to prove you should have a higher grade” might be better as an initial report than every detail about why a grade is 3/5. Of course some students will want to see all of those details, but if we hide them back on a separate screen we could focus more on “here’s what you could do next” on the first screen. In my own experience this year, after kids get a specific grade back they stop caring about it and only want to know about their overall status.

    All this to say that keeping track of individual grades might not be an essential feature! It sounds like you are already discarding previous grades, and I know I am and I’ve read about many other people doing that too. What if we only tracked overall grades and not specific ones? Dates and point values get less important here too if every standard is graded out of 5.

    I would be sad to lose the option to use mean or median grades, though.

    Thanks for the ideas and comments – I hope to have some mock screens for display in October. I want to get people using something as early as possible in the development process, and it’s interesting to decide which “basic features” that every grading program has are actually fundamental to the problem of getting feedback to kids :)

  4. I like historical data. Shows that they have or have not been improving. Of course, as you said, the kids don’t really care unless its parent conference time and you can show the parent how the kid has been stuck at a 1 for the last 6 weeks.

    Grouping by standard would be nice. Mine automatically does things chronologically.

    First, you’ll want to look at the mega Excel file the Science Goddess made. Pretty bomb.
    http://blog.whatitslikeontheinside.com/2010/05/building-better-monster.html

    Second, here are the links I have for programs that say they have a SBG option.

    http://www.globalscholar.com/ (Formerly the Pinnacle one that Marzano talks about in his book)
    http://www.snapgrades.net
    markscan.ca
    teacherease.com
    snapgrades.net

    You can demo most of them on their sites. Sometimes you can download a trial copy.

    I’ll just blog what my gradebook looks like. It’s Powerschool so like everyone else I have to kludge it a little.

  5. Hey, thanks for these links! There’s some powerful stuff here, and a lot of great ideas. I like the philosophy of markscan especially. It seems to be something like “make a good visualization of a student’s assessments so that the teacher can make an informed judgement” as opposed to “have the teacher program in rules at the beginning of the semester and then make cold, clinical, probably-wrong judgments based on those rules.”

    Looking forward to your blog post about Powerschool. Thanks again!

  6. I was trying to find something better last night (this is my first year on the SBG express) and thought that the “grade book” needs to be a cube instead of a rectangle. There should be 3 axes on for student names one for standards and one for different attempts. Then Dear Teacher could look at a “pages” in three different ways:
    student vs. standard,
    student vs. attempt
    or attempt vs. standard

    I hope this makes some sense (in my head it does). As I know nothing about writing code or programming, is something like this even possible? Just my two cents. Thanks for what you are doing!

  7. In doing standards-based reporting, I made the switch in changing the grading categories into standards instead of types of assignments.

    In the categories column of the pic above, instead of HW, FIN. EXM, of Wkly Art, it would be either a reporting category from the discipline (e.g. Number & Number Sense), or more specific standards.

    Any given assignment then would be a record of relative mastery of the standards represented by that assignment.

    If a given assignment provides the context for mastery against multiple standards, then I would enter the assignment multiple times into the gradebook, once for each “grading category” (which means, in this case, for each standard represented).

    That way, you get to keep the historical data, while still measuring against standards.

    For their own records, the students have their own scorekeeping sheet: a grid where standards are listed down the rows, and assignments are listed across the columns. Students see their trends over time by looking across the rows, and relative mastery on a given assignment by looking down the column.

    This practice really seemed to simplify the process for me, and is replicable across virtually any grading program.

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